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CAP Consultation Conference, 4 July 2018, Keadeen Hotel Newbridge

Opening Remarks

Minister Creed

  • Ladies and Gentlemen I want to welcome you all here today for what I hope will be a very productive conference as we start out on the road of another reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. 
  • Today you will listen to a range of speakers; from the political sphere, from the European Commission, and from my Department.   However the most important thing about today will be for each of us to hear the voices and the views of other  stakeholders.
  • Those of you in this room will bring different perspectives to the challenges ahead. We have very clear National policy objectives when it comes to the development of our agri food sector, and of course equally, we have very clear obligations in relation to climate and the environment.
  • There will be other perspectives in this room too. This conference is an opportunity for those charged with negotiating on Ireland’s behalf, to view the Commission proposals through those differing perspectives.
  • There might be a sense of déjà vu about yet another CAP reform.  We’ve been here before.  But I think what this illustrates about the CAP is both its importance – for Ireland and for Europe – and the ability and indeed the necessity for the CAP to continually reshape itself to meet the needs of the next generation of farmers and citizens. 
  • Today in Ireland, we are justly proud of an agrifood sector that employs over 173,000 people.  From a uniquely local perspective and heritage, Irish food and drink makes a global journey, finding markets worldwide.  The agrifood sector accounts from some 10.3% of all exports, amounting to more than €13 billion in 2017.
  • We work in Ireland’s largest indigenous sector, and for rural communities, agriculture remains the bedrock of economic and social viability and development.
  • The current CAP has played a vital role in this.  It provides annual payments under Pillar I of €1.2 billion, to support farm incomes and to maintain the rural environment.   Over €300 million per annum are made in Pillar II payments to support investments, knowledge transfer and innovation, and the delivery of environmental public goods.   
  • And this same story is replicated all across Europe where the CAP ensures that European family farm incomes are supported, that consumers benefit from high quality, safe food and that the rural environment and heritage is protected.
  • Maybe we’ve grown so used to the CAP, one of the longest standing policies in Europe, that we fail to appreciate its value.  This is a common policy, through which Member States have, for decades, found a way to work together to protect common values.  This common approach across the European Union can never be taken for granted.  
  • This policy has never stood still.  It continually reinvents itself.  As we begin another reform, I will work with my colleagues in Europe to protect what we need to keep and to change what we must change, to make sure that the policy meet the needs of today. 
  • Supporting the incomes of the farm families who grow the food for our plates and deliver valuable public goods, will continue to be central to that. Without them, we will have land abandonment, rural communities will decline and European food production will be outsourced.

    So we must act to ensure that the EU ‘s Multi Annual Financial Framework is configured to reflect the critical importance of this policy.  In Madrid a number of weeks ago, I joined with counterparts from France, Spain, Finland, Portugal and Greece, Europe North and South, to call for the restoration of the CAP budget for the 2021 – 2026 period to current levels.  There is some momentum behind this call now, and I understand that up to 20 Member States have joined this alliance. We will continue to work together in an effort to build consensus on this point.
  • We also need to consider the role of agriculture with regard to the environment.  Farmers are told that in addition to producing food, they are the guardians of the countryside.  The new proposals make it clear that across Europe, agriculture needs to bring a better focus to the protection of the environment. 
  • All European countries, including Ireland, have commitments under the Paris Accord.  But it is not just about targets.  It is about our shared values and the trust we place in the sector to achieve this.  We want to see a future CAP playing a major role in supporting the farm sector to contribute to climate change mitigation and improved water quality and biodiversity. 
  • And we have to be straight about this. When it comes to the environment and climate change, there can be no free passes for agriculture or any other sector.  A number of weeks ago I was asked whether the CAP was the Common Agricultural Policy or the Common Environmental Policy. The truth is that you cannot have one without the other.
  • Environmental sustainability is a central plank of Food Wise 2025. Now we have to put flesh on the bones of that. This principle is critical to the brand image we have developed for our market offering and it is a key element in developing a case for the restoration of the CAP budget. We have done a lot already, but we simply have to do more.
  • We must use the potential of the CAP to help us to deliver on our environmental ambitions, not least because they are a core element of delivering on our ambition for the development of the agri food sector.
     
  • Of course the measures we choose to support must be effective, they must make sense to those implementing them and they must have regard to the very dramatic regional differences across the European Union.

Ultimately, the success of the reformed CAP will be judged -

  • on how it supports farm family incomes,  and delivers for rural communities;
  • on how it maintains a diverse high quality supply of food for Europe and the World,
  • and critically, on how it protect and enhances the environment. 

 

In Ireland and across Europe our citizens will seek this increased environmental achievement by the CAP.  I consider that Irish farmers can rise to the challenge and achieve these aims. I believe that the budget for the CAP must be adequate to support them in their goals. 

  • Once again, I would like thank you for your attendance here tonight. It will be a busy and full day.  I hope you enjoy the presentations. I look forward to hearing the views of the discussion groups, and to learning from the perspectives all of the participants bring to this very important dialogue. .  

Thank You.

ENDs